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(2007) (Chris Rock, Kerry Washington) (R)

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Comedy: A married investment banker in a sexless marriage succumbs to the advances of a sultry female friend from his past.
Richard Cooper (CHRIS ROCK) is a married investment banker who works alongside George (STEVE BUSCEMI) and others for Mr. Landis (EDWARD HERMANN) in the Manhattan firm of Pupkin and Langford. Richard is good at what he does, has a beautiful wife in Brenda (GINA TORRES), and two cute children. Yet he's bored out of his mind.

That, coupled with Brenda not wanting to have sex with him, leaves Richard with a perpetual case of the wandering eye. While he doesn't act on anything, a new form of temptation arrives in the form of Nikki Tru (KERRY WASHINGTON), the ex-girlfriend to a friend of his from years ago.

She's new to town and says she needs a job reference, but it's obvious she's looking for more than just that. Reminding him of their prior partying ways and sensing trouble in his marriage, Nikki repeatedly calls and visits him at the office, drawing more than a few raised eyebrows, particularly when his work starts to suffer.

With Nikki coming off as a free and sexy spirit compared to his domesticated and practical wife, Richard finds himself tempted by her come-ons and must decide what, if anything, to do about that.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
For many men, the allure of a new romantic relationship is the tantalizing prospect of potential sex. However, once the relationship gains a few years, pounds on either or both partners, children, domestic and career responsibilities and more, sexual intimacy often isn't as plentiful as it once was.

All of which leads middle-aged family man and investment banker Richard Cooper to believe that the most dangerous time in a relationship is when the couple doesn't have sex. He should know as he's the protagonist in "I Think I Love My Wife," a supposed comedy about such matters and the resultant fallout of no sex in his marriage and the fact that he's "bored out of my f*cking mind."

Something of a cinematic kissin' cousin to "When Harry Met Sally" and other such observational comedies about the differences in how men and women look at and participate in relationships, the film is actually something of a remake of the 1972 French film "Chloe in the Afternoon."

Borrowing the basic gist of that film but not much else, the film features comedian Chris Rock not only as the main character, but also the co-writer (along with collaborator Louis C.K.) and director (marking his second time behind the camera following "Head of State").

If you're a diehard Rock fan, you might find something to enjoy in this offering, but the weak direction, poorly crafted script, and less than engaging characters and/or good performances won't do much for anyone else.

The basic story flows from the idea that a man needs his sex, and if he isn't getting that from his wife, he's going to look elsewhere. Okay, while there's certainly nothing novel with that notion, there is potential, especially when one considers Rock's usually no holds barred stand-up material about such matters. Unfortunately, with him occupying three of the film's crucial slots, he apparently manages to cancel himself out, resulting in a weak comedy that's long on set-up and voice-over narration (to explain to those too dim to recognize his wandering eye) and short in interesting, novel, or, sadly, funny material.

The worst part is that with a few relatively simple script tweaks, at least some of the film's glaring problems could have been resolved or at least partially mitigated. For instance, we never know why his wife -- Gina Torres in a role that has her flip-flopping so much in terms of motivation you'd think she was some sort of just-landed fish -- doesn't want to have sex. A few scenes show them in therapy, but they don't do much to explain matters or elicit laughs.

Then there's the mysterious appearance of the beguiling and sexy-as-all-get out Nikki Tru, played in true vixen form by Kerry Washington. She's a former friend's ex-girlfriend who used to hang and party with him and says she just needs a job reference from him. However, it doesn't take a tabloid TV show host to point out that she's really just after him. We never know why, and that omission steals a great deal of the film's comedic thunder.

Had they accidentally bumped into each other and had a spontaneous fling, that would have been one thing, leading to something of a humorous riff on "Fatal Attraction" with her as the spurned femme fatale. Instead, she just keeps coming around and calling, with any number of excuses to speak or see him, but then doesn't go any further than that (she offers the bait -- herself -- but doesn't fling the lure out far enough to reel him in).

That does lead to those in his office questioning his actions or at least judgment -- including a philandering coworker played by a wasted Steve Buscemi -- as well as him having to come up with various lies to throw off his wife about his not-quite adulterous behavior.

Without imaginative reasons for their pairing, that then could have generated even more laughs on various parallel tangents, the repetitive material goes on too long and doesn't yield much in the way of humorous results. Instead, everything is too obvious, predictable and, sadly, borrowed from other films.

There's the visible erection in the pants sequence, the accidental squirting of hand lotion (as a not-so-subtle reference to ejaculation) by the man while applying it to the woman, and more. And the attempt to tap into the ribald, R-rated humor of other sex-related comedies doesn't do this one any favors in terms of comparisons.

In the far more famous seduction movie, "Body Heat," Kathleen Turner's character informs William Hurt's that she's married, meaning she isn't looking for company. That prompts him to say she should have said she was a happily married woman. Washington's character repeatedly does a variation of the same to Rock's here, but that isn't funny. It wasn't in Lawrence Kasdan's film either, but that one wasn't trying to be a comedy. "I Think I Love My Wife" could have been so much more, but as it stands, it rates as just a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed March 12, 2007 / Posted March 16, 2007

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